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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   5 June [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

June 5th

My dear Gray

I have now read your article in Nature, & the 2 last paragraphs were not included in the slip sent before.2 I wrote yesterday3 & cannot remember exactly what I said, & now cannot be easy without again telling you how profoundly I have been gratified. Everyone, I suppose occasionally thinks that he has worked in vain, & when one of these fits overtakes me, I will think of your article, & if that does not expel the evil spirit, I shall know that I am at the time a little bit insane, as we all are occasionally.

What you say about teleology pleases me especially, & I do not think anyone else has ever noticed the point.4 I have always said you were the man to hit the nail on the head.

Yours gratefully & affectionately | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874].
See letter to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874] and n. 3. The copy of Gray’s article in DAR 140.1: 2 does not differ from the article as published (A. Gray 1874c). The final two paragraphs of the article refer to the great practical importance of CD’s botanical papers, and praise CD for the amount of work he accomplished in the face of ill health (A. Gray 1874c, p. 81).
In the penultimate paragraph of his article on CD, Gray called for recognition of CD’s great service to natural science in ‘bringing back to it Teleology’, and in reconciling teleology with morphology (A. Gray 1874c, p. 81). CD had evidently forgotten that Gray made the same point in an 1862 article on dimorphism (A. Gray 1862; see also Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 26[–7] November [1862] and n. 32.) Gray’s article was a commentary on Orchids, which CD had written, he said, ‘to show that the study of organic beings may be as interesting to an observer who is fully convinced that the structure of each is due to secondary laws, as to one who views every trifling detail of structure as the result of the direct interposition of the Creator’ (Orchids, p. 2).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Profoundly grateful for AG’s article in Nature; he is especially pleased by what AG says about teleology.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (104)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9483,” accessed on 9 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22